Victor Davis Hanson, a professor of classics at California State University, Fresno, writes often and writes well. I have two of his books on ancient Greece. He is the only author who has ever explained to me how difficult it was to wreak permanent agricultural devastation on a typical Greek city-state: Pulling out grape vines is exhausting, and chopping down mature olive trees is backbreaking—if not an exercise in futility—so hard is the wood. Hoplite armies did not have the time or energy for such tasks. Hanson understands these things because he is, in addition to being a professor, a farmer. His own fields, near the San Joaquin Valley town of Selma, are now regularly damaged by illegal aliens from Mexico. The Mexican illegals, says Hanson in Mexifornia, have careened off the road and plowed through his fences, crops, and trees, costing him thousands of dollars. They have partied in his fields and left debris scattered far and wide. They have stolen his farm tools and equipment. They have pilfered the contents of his roadside mailbox. They have even broken into his house. Others have asked if they could rent his barn or an outbuilding as a “dormitory” for farm workers. Hanson has learned that the rentals are invariably put to another use—the production of methamphetamine.
Illegal aliens use his rural road as the county dump. Once a month, Hanson clears the roadside of beer bottles, tires, fast-food containers, and plastic lawn bags full of garbage, soiled diapers, and broken dishes. Every few months, he has to remove old and battered sofas, televisions, washers, dryers, and mattresses from his property. On two occasions, he caught the dumpers in the act and was greeted with curses, although he forced them to retrieve their discarded belongings. Twice, his discovery of receipts in the piles of trash enabled the sheriff to track down the culprits. Garbage collection in Selma is cheap, and the county dump is not far, yet, speculates Hanson,
for some reason—perhaps an atavism from the old country where trash is everywhere dumped outside the city limits?—illegal aliens still go out to the country to dump their refuse, furniture, cars and pets on farmland.
He has resigned himself to the cleanup routine.
Cats and dogs, alive and dead, are also dumped on his property by illegal aliens. At the same time, the Mexican visitors to his farm shoot hawks, owls, ducks, quail, and foxes. They leave the carcasses to rot or to be devoured by coyotes, which the Mexicans “seem to regard almost as kin and so never shoot.” On his nightly walks around his farm, he politely asks Mexican trespassers not to drink and leave their bottles behind and not to fire their guns. However,
keeping illegal aliens and Mexican gang members off the property is a hopeless task; in the banter that follows my requests, some trespassers seem piqued that anyone in California should dare to insist on the archaic notion of property rights. One especially smart teenager told me in broken English, “Hey, it’s our land anyway—not yours.”
Hanson devotes most of Mexifornia, though, not to his own experiences with Mexican illegals but to the larger issues facing California. He does not miss much, and I find it difficult to argue with most of his assessment because it sounds so similar to what I have been saying in a dozen or more articles published in Chronicles and elsewhere for a decade. He declares that it is “high time for honest discussion, without fear of recrimination and intimidation. . . . It is not a very healthy state of affairs to have a voting population of millions thinking privately what they would never express publicly.” Of course, many of us for more than a decade have been expressing publicly our concerns about illegal immigration and illegal aliens, while the Republican Party establishment—the neocons in particular—have pretended the problem did not exist.
I suppose I can criticize Hanson for being late to the party, but he has arrived with a bang and does not pull any punches. His principal arguments are that Mexicans immigrate illegally; that they do so in large numbers; that the Mexican government encourages the illegal migration; that, because of the Mexicans’ alien status and proximity to Mexico, they are not intent on becoming Americans; that a separatist culture has developed; that this separatist culture is encouraged by our universities and by Chicano leaders; that the illegal aliens are a burden on the taxpayers; and that California is being rapidly and negatively transformed into a version of Mexico. Welcome aboard, Hanson!
Hanson dismisses the old government line that there are “only” six million illegal aliens nationwide and reckons that the true figure is probably closer to 12 million and growing. The majority of Mexicans come here to work but, nonetheless, consume benefits voraciously. A substantial minority has come for criminal opportunities: A quarter of the inmates in California’s jails and prisons and a third of those arrested for drug trafficking are illegal aliens from Mexico. Criminal or not, they do not bother to learn English, and Mexican flags and decals decorate their cars. Even when afforded the opportunity, eight of ten Mexican immigrants do not become naturalized American citizens. They send billions of dollars back to Mexico each year. Somehow, they manage to forget the “legacy of autocracy, a corrupt legal system, tribalism, statism, endemic racism, poor education, an absence of family planning, the lack of religious diversity and a nationalism of bad faith” that sent them northward to the United States, the hated country of the gringos, in the first place.
Hanson is intimately familiar with the illegal aliens who work the farm fields of the San Joaquin Valley. His discussion of these workers is clearly his most original contribution. At the same time, however, this is Hanson at his weakest. While describing the life of the illegal alien in the farm country, he makes the claim that, should they be expelled from California, “within a year or two the state would be almost paralyzed—much of its food decaying, its hotels dirty, its dishes unwashed, its lawns and shrubs weedy and unkempt.” Why? Because Americans will not do these jobs. This fallacy has been repeated, mantra-like, since the 1970’s in California, until it passes for conventional wisdom.
When I first began to hear this nonsense, these very jobs were not only being done by Americans in California—although the transition to Mexican illegals was well under way—but done almost exclusively by Americans in such nearby states as Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. Now those states, too, are making the transition to Mexican illegals. Why? Because employers can hire them for less. If that cheap, desperate labor pool evaporated, employers would have to pay higher wages to attract American workers again to those jobs. Currently, the taxpayer in California subsidizes employment of illegal Mexicans by paying for the crime they commit, their medical care, the birth and education of their children, and a portion of their food, housing, and transportation. I would gladly pay more for a head of lettuce or a hotel room if the taxpayer were saved eight billion dollars per year, the estimated annual cost of illegal aliens.
In other ways, Hanson’s discussion of illegal-alien workers—at least those in the San Joaquin Valley—is inspired. He has worked beside them. He has hired them. He has taught their children. Their lives, although better than in Mexico, are full of dangers and vices. Their death rate from homicide is three-times greater than that of white Americans.
It is daily fare in our local papers to read of bodies dumped in peach orchards, the putrid remains of corpses fished out of irrigation canals, or the body parts and bones of the long-dead uncovered by the cultivator. These are the remains of hundreds of young men from central Mexico who simply disappeared—shot or stabbed and then dumped by thieves and murderers.
They die from cirrhosis of the liver at double the rate for white Americans. Also double are their rates of gonorrhea, herpes, chlamydia, venereal warts, and HIV infection. Their rate of tuberculosis is 13-times greater than that of whites. Thanks to illegal aliens, tuberculosis is making a comeback in California. I remember in the early 1950’s tuberculosis being described as a disease of some bygone era (Doc Holliday had it), and the last of the “consumptives,” including one of my uncles—who had prospected and mined in Arizona—dying off.
While Hanson’s discussion is generally confined to Mexican males, he notes that female illegals often do better than their male counterparts. The girls attend school more regularly and stay in school at twice the rate of the boys. They more often learn English and go further in school. They occasionally get well-paying jobs in the city after graduating from high school or college, while their menfolk toil in the fields for half the pay and benefits. This situation frequently fractures the traditional male-dominant relationship of Mexican couples.
For the most part, though, the illegal aliens, whether male or female, have turned entire towns of the San Joaquin Valley into Mexican villages. Parlier, once a respectable working-class town, is typical. Although the state and federal governments have combined to build subsidized tracts of single-family houses and a health center, the town is a shambles. Hanson describes a city government that
plagued by constant corruption, recall elections and tribalism . . . is little more than a ward of the federal government. (Policing was for years taken over by the county.) The town is 99 percent Mexican or Mexican-American, often broke, and dependent upon state and federal money for almost all of its services. And yet it has nice streets, homes, clinics, and schools.
Hanson tries not to attribute any of this to race, instead saying that it is only a matter of culture. That is begging the question, however. Culture is made by people, and people make the cultures that best suit them. Does Hanson really believe that California would be the same place if it were 100 percent American Indian or mestizo? It is clear that those Mexicans with the most white blood in them generally rise to the top, whether in Mexico or in California, and those with the most Indian blood dwell at the bottom. There are exceptions, to be sure, but they only prove the rule. Mexicans themselves know this and are not afraid to acknowledge it. Hanson quotes a former Mexican resident of the San Joaquin Valley town of Mendota, which has become virtually all Mexican, as remarking that he left the town “when the last white people left.” Hanson notes that this Mexican’s
unspoken, apparently racist, message was echoed by a resident of Parlier. . . . The latter boasted to me that he transferred all his children to nearby Kingsburg schools where “there are lots of white people.”
Hanson argues hard that the problem is “multiculturalism” and not race. To a degree, he is right. If the minority racial element is small, then the minority can be forced to conform to the cultural mores and standards of the majority. However, once the numbers of the racial minority reach a critical mass, race trumps all, and the culture of the erstwhile majority race does not have to be accepted—nor should it. We are beginning to see this in California. If John Smith, quintessential Anglo, does not speak Spanish, for example, he can forget about applying for many a job. The language of hundreds of schools and dozens of neighborhoods in California is now Spanish. In those areas, Cinco de Mayo is a far greater celebration than Independence Day. Hanson laments the deconstruction of the “assimilationist model” of his youth that transformed Mexicans into Americans but fails to appreciate fully the powerful coercive factor that enabled that model.
Nowhere is the assimilationist model held in more disrepute than in California’s universities. And nowhere in Mexifornia does Hanson have more fun describing the insanity that grips California. Perusing the schedule of classes for the University of California, Santa Barbara, for a recent academic year, he notes 62 listed under Chicano Studies, including “Methodology of the Oppressed,” “Barrio Popular Culture,” “Chicana Feminism,” “History of the Chicano,” “History of the Chicano Movement,” “History of Chicano and Chicana Workers,” “Chicano Political Organizing,” and, my favorite (I think) “De-colonizing Cyber-Cinema.” Meanwhile, the history department offers another 13 classes focusing on Chicanos and several on “race and oppression” but has only one class devoted—and only partly—to the Civil War, and none devoted to the Revolutionary War or World War II. Ironically, as I know all too well—a dozen of my friends, two brothers-in-law, a niece, and a nephew graduated from there—Santa Barbara is not a campus overflowing with Chicanos but with surfers dripping wet from ripping at Campus Point and Devereaux’s, two surf spots within walking distance of the school.
Hanson dares to suggest that the number of Chicano-themed classes be reduced to perhaps ten and describes those who currently teach the classes as aging
La Raza professors, who drive their SUVs in from the suburbs and send their kids to UCLA and Berkeley, [while they] continue in some time warp to denigrate a system that has given them and their families so much.
I watched this same phenomenon while teaching at UCLA for 15 years. We had a Chicano professor who played professional victim and revolutionary while drawing a fat salary for teaching and publishing very little. Hanson, who more than justifies his keep at California State University, Fresno, does not mince words.
If “white” California is to be blamed for anything, it is for creating fiefdoms for hundreds of professors in the race business to fabricate classes and methods of instruction that impart almost none of the useful cultural information desperately needed by an alien seeking to prosper in America.
Hanson does not say it, but I will. These professors are nothing but race hustlers, like Jesse Jackson, and they have done more to balkanize California than any white segregationist could have dreamed of doing.
Years ago, I described all of this in articles and speeches to those living outside of California. The general response was along the lines of, “It’s a California problem,” followed by a smirk signifying that California is wacky, exceptional, and unlike the rest of the United States. Now, as the invasion of Mexican illegal aliens spreads to other states, I have seen an attitude change. If you are interested in what your state may look like in the future, you should read Victor Davis Hanson’s Mexifornia. The picture is not pretty.
[Mexifornia: A State of Becoming, by Victor Davis Hanson (San Francisco: Encounter Books) 150 pp., $24.95]